• 10.02.12

Robo Tuna Swims The Seas To Keep You Safe

The latest in robots inspired by animals is this metal fish, designed to inspect hard to reach underwater places with the ease of a swimming fish.

We’ve had remote-controlled cockroaches, cyborg snails, snake-like rescue-bots, and mechanical spiders designed for post-disaster clean ups. In the world of biomimicry, many animals and plants now have corresponding cousins in engineering. And now comes another: the robo tuna.


Recently approved by the Department of Homeland Security (who else?), the tuna–known as the BIOSwimmer–has a “flexible aft” and “appropriately placed sets of pectoral and other fins,” and looks a lot like a tuna designed by humans. Its role is as a sea-faring unmanned underwater vehicle, inspecting ships, piers, harbors, and other “hard-to-reach underwater places.”

The robo tuna is battery-powered, so it can remain at sea for long stretches, and it has an on-board navigation and communications system that can be controlled remotely from a laptop.

The scientists behind the design say they they chose to mimic the tuna for its maneuverability, streamlined body, and fine-tuned muscular control system (not for its deliciousness). “We’re using nature as a basis for design and engineering a system that works exceedingly well,” says David Taylor at DHS. “Tuna have had millions of years to develop their ability to move in the water with astounding efficiency. Hopefully we won’t take that long.”

InnovationNewsDaily notes that scientists have already developed robots inspired by starfish and squid. The critters, propelled by pressurized air, can get into places metal robots can’t reach.

In the future, we’re likely to encounter a lot of funny looking animals.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.